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British Sugar Zero Waste Sugar Beet Refinery

Challenge

Develop zero-waste processes through integrated plant design.

Problem

Manufacturing facilities generate waste material, energy and emissions during production. A particularly difficult issue to deal with is waste carbon-dioxide emissions and low-grade heat waste.

Solution

British Sugar’s plant in Wissington, Norfolk is an example of a zero-waste plant converting all the raw material (sugar beet) input into sustainable products. Each year the plant processes the UKs entire sugar beet crop (approximately 7 million tonnes) into a variety of streams:

  • Topsoil on the sugar beet is cleaned off, recovered and sold under the brand TOPSOIL (450,000 tonnes pa)
  • Stone is also washed off the crop and graded for sale into construction use (70,000 tonnes pa)
  • Solid, fibrous by-products are used a high-energy animal feed
  • Lime by-products are sold as soil improvers under the brand LimeX (425,000 tonnes pa)
  • The main products are a variety of sugar grades for various applications (1 million tonnes pa)
  • Betaine is produced as a by-product which is a natural product used in fish feed
  • Bioethanol is also made at the plant from the sugars (70 million litres pa)
  • Tomatoes are grown in the UKs largest greenhouse (11 hectares) using the low grade heat and CO₂ generated from the process
  • A combined heat and power (CHP) plant provides steam and electricity for the manufacturing process, with excess electricity sold to the grid

Benefits

The plant is one of the most efficient in the world for sugar manufacture
The bioethanol produced is fully traceable with a lifecycle analysis showing a 60% carbon saving over petrol
The tomatoes have a lower carbon footprint than imported or other UK-grown versions
The CHP plant operates at 80% efficiency for energy conversion

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